Just a few years ago £500,000 would have bought you a Georgian mansion in the country with vast lawns sweeping down to your own private lake.

Now you get an end of terrace house in Fleet with a smallish back garden overlooked by other properties.

This town house in the "elegant crescent" at Elvetham Heath is on the market with Carson's for £500,000 and must be setting a new record for prices outside London.

A brochure advertising the house was sent to us at the Star and we put the staff to the test, showing them the picture and asking how much the house would cost.

One guessed £220,000, another said £350,000. Gasps went round the editorial department when the true price was revealed.

Downstairs in the Star reception our two ladies are cannier - they guessed £450,000 and £495,000.

They exploded with laughter when they read of the "attractive landscaped gardens".

"Gardens plural - why, two steps out the front and you're on the pavement!" chuckled one.

"And look at the landscaped garden at the back - ours is better than that!" chortled the other.

Other comments round our office at the general state of the property market:

l "Prices are ridiculous now; a lot of people are going to catch a cold when interest rates go up."

l "We haven't learned the lesson of history."

l "Fleet has the highest proportion of people earning above £100,000 a year - where do we apply for one of those jobs?"

To be fair, the house is extremely spacious, with: a cloakroom, study and family room on the ground floor; kitchen, drawing room (at these prices you do not get a "lounge"), dining room and library, but no loo, on the first floor; four bedrooms and three bathrooms on the top floor. There are also two garages with gravelled hard-standing in front of them.

But the back garden is "normal size" according to the agents and the noisy M3 is not a million miles away.